My First Trip To Disneyland, 1978

In 1978, at age 18, I took a long road trip with my good friend John Dobko.

Our adventures in his green Honda Civic hatchback took us across Canada from Toronto to Vancouver, and then south through many of the Western States (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California) as far as Tijuana. From there it was a northeast cross-country journey through Nevada, Arizona and Colorado, then up to South Dakota to visit Mount Rushmore, and back home to Toronto. The trip lasted about seven weeks. We visited many National and State Parks and major tourist attractions along the way.

One important stop on our journey was a day spent at Disneyland in California. Here is my trip diary entry for that day in 1978.

It’s interesting to read this now and recognize that it was pre-Internet, before everyone could investigate and watch live action footage of every Disney attraction prior to experiencing it in person for the first time. As kids, we somewhat knew what we would see because we grew up watching the weekly Disney TV show every Sunday, but we weren’t so “sophisticated” that we were beyond being amazed by what we experienced for the first time. A theme park with major attractions of the caliber of Disneyland, Universal Studios, Six Flags, or even a seasonal park like Canada’s Wonderland north of Toronto weren’t yet part of our world. Seeing and experiencing what Disneyland had to offer first-hand was like visiting a Wonder of the World.

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Captain’s Log, Stardate, Fri. Oct. 6, 1978

I got up at 7:00 a.m., just before the guy came in to wake everyone up, and took a shower. We then got our stuff together and were off to Disneyland. We got there at 9:30, but nothing opened until 10:00.

Admission and 15 attractions was $8.00. That’s much cheaper than the Ex [the Canadian National Exhibition, in Toronto]. The rides we went on, not necessarily in the order we went on them, were as follows. 

The first ride we went on was Space Mountain. As you enter the line, you walk through a blue tunnel with ‘mission control’ type voices and electronic equipment being played through speakers. As you get closer to the ride, you enter a dark area with a spaceship in the middle and stars along the sides. It’s all very extraordinary, and takes the boredom out of the wait. The ride is a rollercoaster in the dark, and it whips around a planet and through space. 

We then went on the Submarine Voyage, a trip through “liquid space.” It took you under water where you viewed coral reefs and squids, fish, icebergs, sea serpents, and an underwater volcano. It was pretty good.

We went on another roller coaster ride called Matterhorn Bobsled. It went through a mountain, and through some water. It wasn’t very good. 

We went on Pirates of the Caribbean. This one has to be seen to be believed. You ride in a boat through caves and pirate scenes. The pirates look so real, you would swear they were alive. Their eyes move and they blink, and they talk and they do everything smoothly and naturally. This was the best ride I went on. It was the most colourful and entertaining. 

In second place is the Haunted Mansion. As you enter, everyone gathers in one round room. The walls then stretch. The pictures on the walls get longer and they roof gets higher. All the lights go out and thunder and lightning are heard and seen, and when you look up, there is someone hanging far above you in a dark blue rainy evening. The lights go back on and all that is there is the roof. You then walk through a passageway where there are pictures on the walls. The pictures change from a boat to a ghost ship, or a face to a skull, or a man to a monster. You then get in a vehicle which takes you through the rest. There is a talking head inside a crystal ball, and people popping up, ghosts flying through the air. There’s a ghost party with people at a large table. They appear and disappear quite often. You can see right through them. At the end there is a mirror that you ride past, and there is a ghost sitting in the car with you. There is also a lady about 6 inches tall, as you walk out, and she talks to you. It looks so real that you’d have to see it to believe it. How cliché.

We went on People Mover, a train-like vehicle which takes you through Tomorrowland. It goes through two tunnels with films of cars whipping past so it appears that you are driving along at the speed of the cars on the film. They were racing cars.

We went on Storybook Land Canal Boats which took you past miniature villages from fairy tales.

We went to Tom Sawyer’s Island, we took a Mission to Mars, we went on Snow White’s Adventures and saw the Wicked Witch, and we went on Peter Pan’s Flight, right over London Town. The Swiss Family Tree House is a concrete tree which has stairs and furniture in it.

After Disneyland, we headed for San Diego. I forgot, we went to America Sings, a show where animated animals sing American folk songs.

When we got near San Diego, we had to find a place to camp, so we pulled off the highway and followed a dirt road to a quiet spot. There was only a dog barking.

L.A. to San Diego. 143 k.m. $20.00 

Teenage Tourists 1978

© 2019, Barry L. Linetsky. All Rights Reserved. 

Barry Linetsky is the author of the acclaimed book The Business of Walt Disney and the Nine Principles of His Success (Theme Park Press), and an Honorary Disney History Institute Historian. Barry is a writer, photographer, researcher, and business strategy enabler. His articles on business management have been published in Rotman Management Magazine and Ivey Business Journal.

1 reply
  1. Kristofer Van Wagner
    Kristofer Van Wagner says:

    I am thankful that this post shared that it is important for us to plan our trip to Disneyland strategically as it will impact the costs and expenditures. The other day my wife suggested that we take a trip to Disneyland sometime this year as my wife loves Disney. In fact, I think I will look if it’s possible for us to pre-purchase Disney merchandise to surprise my wife when we get there.


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